Posted by: Ian | December 29, 2012

My Festive 500 #6 – Slow Magic

All of the rides that I’ve done so far towards my Festive 500 have ended where they started but today’s was the first that has been circular with no retracement. The day began again with heavy rain and much of it was coursing along the small roads.

Road waterI came to the stretch shown in the photo quite early on and was lucky to find a raised footpath to the right of the road that I could cycle on to get past the fast water. Shortly after this my Garmin reported that I was following Perfect Heart Cross for a while, though I haven’t since been able to locate that name on any map, nor is it in the Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names.

The rain continued until I reached Bampton, just past the half way mark, where I stopped for coffee and cake.

From Bampton I was making fast progress along the A road towards Wiveliscombe. The carriageway was wide and rain-free, there was hardly any traffic and I had a tailwind: riding along in the drops, it was easy. But my route took me off the A road, which snakes through the valley, and up into more single track roads, generously annotated on the OS map with steep gradient arrows both up and down. In a sense, this seven day ride that I’ve concocted for the Festive 500 is a spell to release me from the misery of 2012 and send me more optimistically into the New Year. And spells can’t me rushed: the prepared script has to be followed diligently. Furthermore, each of the four closed loops that I’ve made on my rides has been tracked in the clockwise direction, rather than widdershins, as this is good magic!

Fittingly, I was soon following Old Way (according to my Garmin – again not to be found on my maps), which weaves through those timeless places that make me love the South West so much. At a T-junction my road down to Bulland Ford was marked as “Unsuitable for motors”. Initially, it seemed great for motors: perfectly driveable and with fields and woods to the left densely packed with pheasant. Soon, though, the downhill gradient became severe: much steeper than a downhill I’d taken earlier on the route that was marked by a roadsign as 25%. Checking later, RideWithGPS gives it as only 23% and the OS map marks it with only single arrows but I suspect that it’s as steep as any road I’ve ever cycled along: I’d be wary of cycling up it.

At the bottom was another ford. Although it was only a couple of feet deep it was fairly wide and the flow of water was powerful and so I picked the bike up and carried it across. As I squelched up onto the road a woman emerged from a house on the other side and, after saying that I was “very brave” to walk across, pointed out a footbridge a little way downstream.

Before too long I rejoined the A road and had a pleasant blast past Milverton before cutting across country and back to the start.

On Strava I see that about 15,000 people have signed up for the Festive 500 challenge; about 11,500 have registered some rides; about 1,300 have so far done more miles than I have; and about 500 cyclists have already completed the 500 km. I plan to do my final ride tomorrow, with one day to spare, and then do a wrap-up blog post on New Year’s Eve. Here’s my Strava map for today’s ride:

F500 6



  1. garmin GPS are the best brand of GPS that i have every owned, they last very long.-

    My web blog

  2. […] My Festive 500 #6 post I called my approach to this challenge a spell. That’s true in the banal sense of it […]

  3. So where is this ‘Free Do’ being held?

    • Any time you’re passing this part of Somerset…

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